Foodservice Equipment Reports

Michigan Looks To Reverse Course On Prison Kitchen Inspections

Michigan’s legislature is mulling a bipartisan bill that would require prison kitchen facilities to have food-safety inspections performed when a contractor is managing the kitchen.

Currently, under the Michigan Food Law, state prison kitchen facilities are exempt from being classified as a “food establishment” and are not subject to the routine inspections mandated for other foodservice operations across the state. The exemption was allowed because until 18 months ago, prison kitchens were run by state employees who constantly were monitoring and inspecting the kitchen areas to maintain both food quality and safety.

But in December 2013, the State of Michigan privatized its prison foodservice operations, including the kitchen facilities, when it signed a three-year, $145 million contract with Aramark. Since then, Aramark has been fined for issues including the cleanliness of the kitchens; these fines, as well as allegations of spoiled food being served to inmates, prompted lawmakers to demand prison foodservice standards be compliant with those demanded of other privately and publicly run foodservice operations in Michigan.

The legislation would require that prison kitchens be inspected by the local county health department; inspection costs would be the responsibility of the foodservice contractor. If the state resumes food preparation and foodservice within the prison system, kitchen facilities once again would be exempt from food-safety inspections.

“Our prisons should face the same scrutiny as our schools, universities and senior centers,” said state Rep. Ed McBroom, one of the bill’s sponsors. “It seems only reasonable that those kitchens face the same strict inspections as required by any kitchen serving the public.”

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